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"Media Relations: Is Your Company Crying Wolf?"
By Hilary Kaye, Hilary Kaye Associates, Inc.

 

Media relations, also referred to as publicity, is a marketing tactic that is often either over-used or under-used by companies. In reality, media relations is a particularly valuable strategic approach for companies that wish to gain both visibility and credibility, but it must be used properly to be truly effective.

At one end of the spectrum, some companies believe that everything they do is newsworthy and tend to blanket the media with press releases of dubious content and value. Unfortunately, this barrage of news serves to water down the potential value the releases have to the media. The intended effect of getting the company frequent news coverage is rarely achieved this way. Reporters and editors tend to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to companies that consistently send out news releases that do not qualify as news in their estimation. When REAL news does come from the company, many of these news outlets have already tuned out and the news is ignored. "Crying wolf" is actually one of the biggest mistakes companies can make. Unfortunately, it happens frequently.

In stark contrast are the companies that never utilize the vast potential of media relations. They either assume that none of their news is truly newsworthy, or they lack the know-how to deliver their news to the media. The bottom line is that their marketing mix consists of advertising and other "paid" strategies. While these strategies are fine for gaining visibility for the company — provided they are carefully planned and executed — they do nothing to enhance credibility for the company. Publicity is truly the best way to achieve credibility -- the implied, third-party endorsements that come with editorial coverage are the best way to achieve this.

Somewhere in between these two extremes is the proper way to conduct a media relations campaign. Media relations should not be viewed as a panacea — it is definitely not a tactic for all seasons. In many cases, a press release is not an effective tool to use and a call to the media is even worse. Sometimes, delivering a targeted marketing message to an email list of customers and prospects is a much better tactic than trying to induce the media to carry the message for you. For that reason, well-executed printed or emailed newsletters — delivered to appropriate recipients — will have more benefit than a press release that is trashed upon receipt and never reaches its target.

That said, many companies have trouble deciding what is newsworthy to the media. Just because something is important to the company, it may not be important to the media. Individuals charged with handling in-house public relations should consider whether company news meets one or more items on this partial list of criteria:

  • The news event is of great financial significance to the company

  • The company is introducing a new product or service

  • A high-level executive is hired

  • The company is involved in a merger or acquisition

  • The company adds a new facility or a new division

  • The company, its product or service wins an industry honor/award

All of these occurrences — and others that fall outside of a category — can be communicated via a press release and, when appropriate, with phone or email "pitches" to the media. However, understanding the various types of media is just as important. A story that a local weekly newspaper would feature on page one with photos would receive no notice in the Wall Street Journal and possibly little notice in the nearby metropolitan daily newspaper. However, several of your industry journals would be pleased to include the item as a news brief at the very least. Often, industry exposure can be even more important to your sales efforts than general press or business media.

Before you begin any media relations work, understand WHOM you would like to read about your company. Sending the wrong kind of news to the wrong kind of publication will result in an ineffective campaign that just takes up time and wastes money. Be realistic about the quality of your news and who would be interested in knowing what is happening at your company.

Media relations can be one of the most important marketing tactics you use to generate greater visibility and build credibility for your company. But if used inappropriately, you will gain little and be left wondering what the fuss over publicity is all about.

Hilary Kaye is president of Hilary Kaye Associates, Inc. (HKA), a PR and marketing communications firm that provides services to both emerging growth and established companies. HKA specializes in targeted media relations for its clients. Kaye can be reached at (714) 426-0444 or hilary@hkamarcom.com.

 

 



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